Jane Crosbie has been by her husband’s side for more than six decades “supporting him all the way” while meeting some of the world’s most famous people.
Although her marriage to John Crosbie has given her an opportunity to meet Fidel Castro, Indira Gandhi and Prince Charles, Jane is just as comfortable sitting down for tea with everyday people like the staff at government house, where her husband served as lieutenant-governor for five years.
“Some of my best friends I met when down there. They were wonderful to us. And I sincerely like them. I would do anything for them and they’d do anything for me.”
Jane is the daughter of Jack and Margaret Furneaux. Her father was the only veterinarian in Newfoundland for many years.
He treated mainly horses, Jane says, until after the Second World War when his practice focused mainly on small animals.
“Growing up, I was often referred to as the ‘horse doctor’s daughter’ because of following him on his calls and people wondering who that little one was.”
John and Jane were 17 when they started dating. Jane is two weeks older than her husband.
While John was away getting an education the two wrote letters to each other twice a week.
They married four years after they began dating. They’ve gone through some rough times during her husband’s political career, Jane says. They’ve also shared much happiness.
“We don’t take each other for granted. I’m no pushover, mind you. Nor is he. We have it out now and then, but it seems to work for us. … We’ll be married 62 years Sept. 8. We haven’t killed each other yet,” she laughs.
What is your full name?
Jane Ellen Audrey Furneaux Crosbie. The Jane Ellen is after my grandmother who died (of breast cancer) six months after I was born.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in St. John’s by a midwife and doctor on Jan. 15, 1931. Mom went to the hospital and had her first child and didn’t like it. She was a strong-minded woman, too. So that was the end of that.
Where is home today?
Right here just outside St. John’s.
How many children do you have?
Three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
What is your greatest indulgence?
I love cream on things. … And I like shopping. I’m not always buying, but I like going around seeing what’s in windows. And I love garage sales; I love old junk.
What was one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?
Smoking. My mother was very much against her girls smoking. I have three sisters (and one brother). We took it up, but in time we saw that she was right. I gave it up years and years ago.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Being a wife and mother and grandmother. All these things mean a lot to me. I’m glad I’m not childless and that I have family around me.
What was your favourite year?
1957. That’s when John graduated from Dalhousie (Law School). He won the Viscount Bennett Scholarship (awarded by the Canadian Bar Association to the outstanding law student of the year). We went to London, England for a year and he attended the London School of Economics. ... It was a wonderful place to live back then. But there is no place like Newfoundland.
Is there any one incident that happened during your time at government house that you will always remember?
First when we were down there, we went to a church service. ... John had his contribution in an envelope all ready. We were led to the front pew. When they went around for the collection, I guess they didn’t know what to do with us ... they skipped us. So before they went up to the front altar (with the collection) we beckoned them over and John took out his envelope (from his jacket pocket) and passed it over. When we got home he took off his jacket. He went there with two envelopes — one with nothing in it and one with the money in it. Well, he put the empty envelope in. … Talk about being embarrassed. (The mistake was soon corrected).
You were honorary patron of the Bannerman Park Foundation while you were at government house. You took an interest in the revitalization of the park. Tell me about that.
It was like an old field and badly needed freshening up. … On leaving government house I resigned, and following that they asked me to go on the board.
The board has done some wonderful things with the park and are hoping to finish up sometime this fall. While living by the park I often walked there and became aware how very much it is used by the people in the area. I bought some of their stones in the walking path which is near Rennie’s Mill Road. … I had one put there for our 60th wedding anniversary and three in a row in memory of my parents. That one is easy to find because there is a horse in the middle.
What is your greatest regret?
I had to put my dog, Brigand, down. He was a Dandy Dinmont (Terrier). We brought him over from England. We had him 14 years. We brought the body home and we buried him. I’d get another dog, but I don’t think I could lose another. You love them too much. They are family.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to speak a second language.
What is your greatest fear?
Heights. I would never take a condo in one of those tall buildings. Never.
What are you reading right now?
“Savage Harvest” by Carl Hoffman (“Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art”). It’s quite the book.
What is your personal motto?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
What are your best and worst qualities?
I think my best one is I get along with people pretty well, and my worst is you mean well but, sometimes, because I’m outspoken, that can be my worst quality.
What is your most treasured possession?
My memories and my family. I know (my family) are not my possessions, but I treasure them.
Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?
If I was 15 I’d say perhaps Justin Bieber. But the years have gone by so I’m wondering, what about Paul Newman?
Which person, alive or dead, would you like to have lunch with?
I could have a card table, a lunch for four. Margaret Thatcher, probably. She’s a very positive woman who speaks her mind. And Hillary Clinton, another strong woman.
And Indira Gandhi. She was murdered three months after we met her. There’d be more talking than eating.
Who inspires you?
John (smiles). We’ve been so long together. He definitely inspires me.